Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ambient Dextrous: Brian Eno 70

I return again for a spur-of-the-moment post to celebrate a milestone birthday of another of the truly formative figures of modern music.
Today's celebree (yes I just made up that word, for it's not building a wall but making a brick) began in the hothouse Art College atmosphere of the mid-1960s in the UK, and by 1972 he was commanding quite a bit of attention.
The legend has it that Bryan Ferry couldn't deal with another person getting any attention in Roxy Music, so the record company approached him with a solo deal.
A couple of (omg some of the greatest LPs ever attempted, much less made) records in, fate brought the watershed event that would come to define so much of his philosophy of Music.
One day in 1975, he was run over by a taxicab and may have died had there not been people around to help. Convalescing in hospital, his friend brought him a record of harp music and placed it on his hifi in his room. 
She neglected to turn it up as she left, leaving him with one channel failed completely and the remainder at an almost imperceptible volume.
Had this been me laying there crippled in the bed, I'd have likely thrown the stereo system out the window and cursed a whole lot. This guy took it in a completely different way, and the perspectives the experience shaped in him drew his creativity and purpose in a new and totally world-shifting direction.
When he emerged from healing, he came with ideas so revolutionary and expressive, a whole web of new genres and subgenres of music ended up being born.
His main thrust, if I had to boil it down, was about the role of music in life situations, and the tenuous -- really arbitrary -- relationship between music intended for the foreground attention of the listener versus the background.
To describe this new sound approach, he coined a term that, decades later, is a category in every record store left on Earth, with multiple substreams of divergent material.
He called it Ambient Music, and now 40+ years later it's one of the defining ideas about how music is made, manipulated and positioned in our culture.
Jump-cut to today, and he's considered one of the driving intellectual forces in all music, as well as perhaps the most in-demand record producer in the world, having produced artists and recordings that stand among the pinnacles of human musical achievement in our lifetimes.
Had he never made a sound of his own and merely manned the desk for records like the Talking Heads' Remain In Light, or the first LP by DEVO, or those U2 albums in the 1980s, he'd be a first ballot Hall of Famer, just on the strength of that alone.
But burning airlines give you so much more, and that's why we're here on his 70th birthday, paying tribute to the singular, utterly individuated musical force that is Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno.
So let's celebrate! I have vaulted into the Megacloud the two lush and luscious FM broadcasts of Eno's sort-of-residency at the 1999 Holland Festival in Amsterdam. The first set has the Bang On a Can All-Stars rendering the man's touchstone Music for Airports in the actual airport there, complete with strange ambient sounds of the facility piped in over the music.
The second set features the Metropole Orkest performing tracks from his The Shutov Assembly, as well as some of his most iconic older compositions. The latter half mainly circulates with the sixth track -- perhaps Eno's most beautiful single melody -- inexplicably cut off near the end, but luckily for you I have another capture that has no such issue, grabbed direct from the radio to digital.
Brian Eno
Holland Festival, 1999

i.
Bang on a Can
Brian Eno's "Music for Airports"
Holland Festival
Schiphol Airport
Amsterdam, NL
6.8.1999

01 Music for Airports 1/1
02 Music for Airports 1/2
03 Music for Airports 2/1
04 Music for Airports 2/2
05 Burning Airlines Give You So Much More
06 Everything Merges with the Night

Total time: 1:03:43

Ashley Bathgate - cello
Robert Black - bass
Vicky Chow - keyboard
David Cossin - percussion
Mark Stewart - guitar
Ken Thomson - keyboard

sounds like a digital capture of the original FM broadcast

ii.
Brian Eno
Metropole Orkest
Holland Festival
Paradiso, Amsterdam 
6.20.1999

01 Lanzarote
02 Saint Tom
03 Cavallino
04 Final Sunset
05 Markgraph
06 An Ending (Ascent)
07 Ikebukuro
08 Triennale
09 Alhondiga
10 Iced World
11 Another Green World

Total time: 1:13:53

Het Metropole Orkest, directed by Dick Bakker
Brian Eno - voice, synthesizer & treatments
arranged by Brian Eno and Steve Gray

sounds like a digital capture of the original FM broadcast

both shows zipped together
694 MB FLAC here
Yes, that Oblique Strategy is among my favorite ones, and it's good advice. Right now you are wanting to click the share link, and you should. As well as clicking this one and popping over to an older post of mine about Eno, in which you will find a still-animated link to a seminal, ridonkulous compilation of his deepest and funkiest tracks.
I'll be back real soon with more tasty tidbits for your tweeters and wild whupass for your woofers, but for now it's got to be time to pay homage to Brian Eno, born this day in 1948 and as responsible as anyone for the last four decades of the trajectory of the music we love.--J.